Oakley Hall is one of those sprawling, country-folk-rock collectives so en vogue right now (see also Akron/Family). Violin player? Check. Many multi-instrumentalists? Check. What was sad about the band’s September 21 appearance at Los Angeles’s Spaceland was how sparsely attended it was. The Broolyn-based Oakley Hall (formed by Pat Sullivan, previously of Oneida, in 2002), has been making a name for itself for a few years now, touring with the likes of Bright Eyes and Gillian Welch, and has recently released a stellar album, I’ll Follow You. The fact that the Spaceland crowd was small could probably be chalked up to the fact that this was one of those crazy L.A. nights in which the Oakley Hall show was only one of many appealing concerts going on around town; elsewhere, Besnard Lakes was at the Troubadour, Air and Sondra Lerche and Sea Wolf were at the Greek, and a reformed Rentals was at the Fonda. Those concertgoers who did choose to come out to Spaceland were rewarded.
With so many members, Oakley Hall can easily keep things eclectic throughout a set. After almost every song, the band members shuffled around to different instruments. Claudia Mogel alternated between fiddle and keyboards, Pat Sullivan (who comes across like a more countrified Elliott Smith) between guitar and keyboards, and Rachel Cox between acoustic and electric guitars. Sullivan and Cox traded off on lead vocals, with Mogel often chiming in to complete some beautiful three-part harmonies.
The band hit all the highlights from I’ll Follow You. “Rue the Blues,” an upbeat, jangly rocker in defiance of its downer title, got a good vibe up on an unusually rainy L.A. evening. Cox’s lead songs, “All the Way Down” and “Angela,” were sparkling. “No Dreams” rumbled with rocking authority. And Oakley Hall dipped back to last year’s Gypsum Strings to pluck winners off of it, including “Lazy Susan.”
After Cox helped end the initial set on the baroque note of “Take My Hands We’re Free,” Oakley Hall came back for one more song. It was a free-form blues jam that found the band further augmented by a guitarist from opening act Whalebones. The moment once again proved that, with Oakley Hall, the more is definitely the merrier.